Wolves den on lambing ground
FARSON -- Members of
the Thoman Ranch family, with headquarters just
below Fontenelle Dam north of Kemmerer, know what
it's like to have large, federally protected
predators preying on their domestic sheep flocks.
The Thoman sheep are trucked to the Upper Green
River region in July and graze the mountains
through September before moving back to lower
elevation rangelands for the remainder of the
year. The Thomans have had both grizzly bears and
gray wolves kill their sheep while on the
Bridger-Teton National Forest grazing allotments
in recent years.
This time, it appears the wolves are coming out to
meet the flocks, months ahead of any anticipated
A pair of wolves is expected to begin denning in
the middle of a domestic sheep lambing ground
northeast of Farson any day now, according to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are three
migratory sheep outfits that use the area for
lambing, which begins in early May in western
Dick Thoman said
Tuesday his family is slated to move two bands of
sheep into the area next week for lambing. The
notion of a pair of wolves feeding pups in a den
amid the sheep begs the question of what food
source the adult wolves will use. Thoman is
confident of the answer: his sheep.
"If sheep are in the area, sheep are food, and
they are going to eat them," Thoman said. "It's
not if, it's when. It's a given they are going to
eat some sheep."
Federal officials reported that a USDA Wildlife
Services field specialist saw a pair of wolves
feeding on a moose calf kill in the area last
"The female was very pregnant and expecting to den
any day," Fish and Wildlife reported in its weekly
wolf update. "The area is in the middle of a sheep
lambing area and the local producers were
contacted about the situation."
Mike Jimenez of Fish and Wildlife said in an
interview Tuesday that Wildlife Services has been
authorized to trap and radio-collar wolves on site
so the pair can be monitored.
"It's not in the mountains, it's on the
flatlands," Jimenez said. "And there's a lot of
Fish and Wildlife has no plans to move the wolves,
despite their presence amid a lambing ground.
"We don't move things proactively," Jimenez said.
Jimenez said the wolves have not yet caused a
problem with the domestic sheep.
Two of the three sheep producers in the region
said they had not been contacted about wolves
denning in the area.
Thoman said he had not been contacted about the
wolves as of Tuesday. Fellow sheepman Pete Arambel,
who will trail his domestic herds into the region
the first week of May, confirmed that he hadn't
been contacted about the situation either.
The third domestic sheep producer using the area
is Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive Jim
Magagna. He said he had received a message from
Jimenez, but had not yet returned the call Tuesday
afternoon. His flocks will also enter the area
within the next week to 10 days, he said.
"I think we're all at risk," Magagna said.
Magagna questioned why Fish and Wildlife would
wait until the wolves had pups and the "almost
inevitable conflict" with sheep would occur before
taking action. He suggested that because efforts
were being made to trap the wolves, the wolves
should be captured and moved to another location
"where the wolves and their pups would have a
better chance of not causing a conflict."
All three sheep producers use livestock guardian
dogs and have herders with the flocks around the
clock, but even with these precautions, wolves
often succeed in killing domestic sheep.
This is the southernmost pair of wolves known to
Fish and Wildlife in Wyoming at this time.